Reimagining the College Observatory

Throughout history, humankind has been drawn to look up to the stars and wonder why. Celebrated in literature, song and artworks, the beautiful and terrifying immenseness that is space has captivated scientists, farmers, philosophers and artists alike.

ELTHAM College committed to an Observatory in the early 1980s, with teaching staff regularly conducting ‘star nights’ at the school. Unfortunately, the Observatory was significantly damaged by storms in 2011, and the repairs that were undertaken were not successful. With the decision to redevelop the College Observatory made in 2018, the College is now well poised to further embrace the marvellous opportunities that looking upwards affords. From chemistry to physics, mathematics to poetry, the learning experiences are both rich and varied.

Construction work on the building commenced over the 2018 summer break, with work also scheduled to upgrade facilities like the Library Auditorium to support further learning in this area. While the building will be reimagined, the College will also embrace advancements in telescope technology. To this end the College plans to install a research-grade fully automated 17” telescope with the support of our community.

The advancement in technology that has occurred since the early 1980s is such that telescopes can be accessed remotely and programmed ahead of time. Images and data can then be analysed and viewed at a later stage. While we still plan to be able to physically put our eye to a lens, this technology provides far more flexibility and accessibility for students.

Community endeavour is what the College was built upon, and we recently invited all members of our community to participate in a ‘Giving Day’ to raise funds for this amazing piece of equipment. This took the form of a one-day crowdfunding exercise held on Thursday 28 March 2019.

The results of our Giving Day were astronomical. Together we raised $204,296 for the new Observatory. We applaud all those who contributed, from the individuals and associations that made pledges before the day, to the over 200 families, individuals and businesses who took part in what was an epic Giving Day.

Our Observatory is on track for an official opening on the evening of Friday 17 May. More details regarding this event will be communicated in the coming weeks.

There is currently unprecedented interest and enthusiasm for astronomical endeavour, with the creation of an Australian Space Agency in June 2018 and ongoing focus on STE[A]M education. We look forward to seeing how this aspirational undertaking will help our young people access these amazing opportunities.

Australia has for a long time played a significant role in multiple fields of astronomy research. What an amazing time it is to be a budding astronomer in this country – especially if you are a student at ELTHAM College!

May the stars shine brightly for the next future thinkers of the world.

To see the results of our Giving Day please check out our Giving Day page.